Donald Trump will win the 2016 presidential election.
Not “might” win. Not “could win under the following circumstances.” He’s going to win as surely as the sun rises in the east, as certainly as high tide follows low, and as definitively as Steph Curry laid waste to the Oklahoma Thunder’s defense.
What am I, clairvoyant? Of course not. Just as it’s wise to never say “never” – except maybe Never Trump – it’s never a good idea for somebody to make unqualified predictions in print about unknowable future events.
Bold claims had better be backed by solid reasons. Although Trump is running nearly even with Hillary Clinton in national polls, the Vegas bookmakers remain optimistic about Clinton’s chances. The online betting site PaddyPower.com currently puts the odds of Clinton winning at 1 in 2, with Trump at 7 to 4. Bernie Sanders is a 20 to 1 long shot.
Would I be willing to put my money where my mouth is? Don’t be ridiculous. Gambling is a sin! But I wouldn’t bet against a Trump victory.
Here are five reasons why:
▪ His rhetoric resonates (even as it appalls).
Everyone knows that Trump is an outrage machine. What few people appreciate is that Trump is a well-calibrated outrage machine. He has fastened on to issues that other candidates couldn’t discuss without sounding like pandering flip-floppers.
Trump has departed from Republican orthodoxy on health care, taxes, free trade and immigration. Often he seems to contradict himself. He has said everything is negotiable – especially the outrageous things he’s said.
Will he build a wall on the southern U.S. border and make Mexico pay for it? Maybe, maybe not. But he’s opened up the discussion like no one has before.
“Trump’s selection of issues is part of his persuasion talents,” writes Scott Adams, the creator of “Dilbert” who has been blogging for months about the Trump phenomenon. “He was smart enough to pick the topics with the most emotional power. It was intentional.”
“Keep in mind,” Adams adds, “that every candidate had the same options that Trump did, but only Trump chose correctly.” Adams says that is no accident: “The public just thinks it is.”
By the way, Adams thinks Trump will win “in a landslide.”
▪ Most Republicans are falling in line.
I’m a die-hard Never Trump guy, but I know I’m among a minority. Although some prominent Republican leaders have withheld their support, it’s clear that the GOP rank-and-file is rallying to the presumptive nominee. On Thursday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ended weeks of speculation and endorsed Trump, saying “the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.” A unified Republican Party is far more likely now.
Democrats, meantime, are divided among dedicated Clinton supporters and Sanders’ cadres of bitter-enders. The Bernie voters tend to be millennials. Clinton may not be able to count on their support in November.
▪ Gotcha journalism doesn’t faze Trump.
Oh, that Trump is such a thin-skinned baby! Did you see his “epic meltdown” during his press conference at Trump Tower last week? He kept berating the reporters for not doing their jobs. What a buffoon!
At least, that’s what The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the crew on “Morning Joe” said.
What my friends in the press fail to understand is the great mass of would-be readers and viewers really, really don’t like us. They certainly don’t trust us. And so when Trump calls ABC News reporter Tom Llamas “a sleaze” and Llamas responds with pained indignation, who do suppose wins that confrontation?
“Why am I a sleaze?” Llamas protested.
“You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well,” Trump replied.
Trump never apologies and never backs down. The media may despise him, but voters despise the media more. That’s why he’s winning.
▪ Hillary follows his lead – badly.
Trump has run a nontraditional campaign and defied all expectations and expert predictions so far. Meantime, Clinton has rebooted her campaign four or five times since April.
Clinton doesn’t know how to respond to Trump. The campaign is peddling the catchphrase, “Love Trumps Hate.” But as Adams points out, that’s a terrible slogan. “Humans put greater cognitive weight on the first part of a sentence than the last part,” he writes. “This is a well-understood phenomenon. And the first part literally pairs LOVE and TRUMP.”
That’s hardly her first misstep. In December, Clinton took a swipe at Trump’s “penchant for sexism” around the same time she announced that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would be campaigning for her in New Hampshire.
Trump slapped back. Hard. “If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women’s card on me, she’s wrong!” Trump tweeted. Clinton had no answer for that. And she won’t have an answer for it when it comes time to debate.
▪ Trump will crush Clinton in the debates.
People watched with a mixture of horror and amusement as Trump took apart his opponents during the Republican debates. Ted Cruz was supposed to be a debate champion in college. He couldn’t withstand Trump’s assaults. All Trump needed to do was repeat the nickname “Lyin' Ted” over and over again until it stuck.
A few months ago, Trump started referring to Clinton as “Crooked Hillary.” He’s preparing the rhetorical battle space.
Also, Clinton is not a very good debater. People forget the way Barack Obama eviscerated her during the 2008 Democratic primaries. She does not do well in situations where she doesn’t have complete control. It’s why she prefers interviews to press conferences. Interviews are more predictable. Press conferences are free-for-alls.
We’re a long way from the Lincoln-Douglas era, when people would sit and listen for hours to closely argued speeches. Trump is a master of the emotional appeal. He’s shown he has no compunction about attacking Clinton and her husband of their moral and ethical lapses, even as he’s fighting lawsuits accusing him of fraud and dodging questions about his past infidelities and current net worth.
In a contest between two shameless politicians, the one with the least shame wins. Get ready for President Trump.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Contact him at email@example.com. He wrote this for The Sacramento Bee.